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Studies of the Book of Mormon Paperback – August 15, 1992
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About the Author
Brigham D. Madsen is Professor Emeritus of History and past vice president of the University of Utah, recipient of a Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, as well as the Distinguished Service Award from the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters. He is the author of Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor (Utah State Historical Society Best Military History Award), North to Montana! Jehus, Bullwhackers, and Mule Skinners on the Montana Trail (Westerners International Best Book Award), The Shoshoni Frontier and the Bear River Massacre (Westerners International Best Book Award), Studies of the Book of Mormon (John Whitmer Historical Association Best Book Award), and other volumes, including his own popular autobiography, Against the Grain: Memoirs of a Western Historian.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Western Historical Quarterly, Richard Sherlock
Here for the first . . . time a Mormon [leader] and first-rate historian is wrestling with the most sensitive subject possible for his church: to what extent is the Book of Mormon a nineteenth-century product and/or an actual record of some of the peoples of ancient Mesoamerica. . . . Roberts’s work points the way that an intellectually honest faith most go, and for that we must still read these now sixty-year-old studies, as others will do in another century.
Sociological Analysis, Gordon Shepherd
The Roberts manuscripts represent a compelling case study of the age-old tension between religious faith and rational thought. The Roberts era of Mormon history is instructive of the way in which successful religious movements eventually seek . . . to consolidate, systematize, and rationalize the inconsistencies of the founding beliefs.
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This started Roberts on the mission of proving or disproving the Book of Mormon. He reviewed the book for inconsistencies in technology, zoology and anthropology. He presents a study of the technology of steel, glass, the wheel, metal coins and other advances that were questionable. He also covered the problems with horses, elephants, oxen, cattle and other problems. He covered the linguistics and anthropological information available at the time in trying to reconcile an Israelite migration to North America. In all, his conclusions are consistent with the current scientific community. He proposed, and then rejected, what Mormons know today as the Limited Geography Theory. He then undertakes a review of Joseph Smith and the literature available to Joseph Smith and concludes that there are significant parallels to "View of the Hebrews" by Ethan Smith. He did not at the time have the information that Oliver Cowdrey's family were parishioners of Ethan Smith. He concluded that with the structure of "View of the Hebrews", the 1796 version of the King James Bible and Joseph Smith's imagination, he would have no trouble writing the book.
The book is analytical in nature, reviewing all possible options. Mormon Apologists claim that this book was written so the Brethren would know the weaknesses of the Book of Mormon. If you read the book you can clearly see that this is not the case. Roberts was struggling and searching for ways to justify the inconsistencies found in the Book of Mormon. By the end of the study it is clear that he no longer has a testimony of the Book of Mormon. The book was not published for 60 years and finally released in 1985. The Mormon Church has had this information since 1930, but never released it. The problems discussed in this book are the same problems that Mormon apologists struggle with today. The answers that the apologists give are no more satisfactory today than they were at the time of B.H. Roberts.
This book is a necessary read for any budding apologist. It is also a book that can be given to a believing Mormon, because it was written by a recognized General Authority. B.H. Roberts was the editor of the "Comprehensive History of the Church" and the "Mormon Doctrine of Deity."
The edition itself is well done, and the introductory and biographical essays are solid.
The book begins with correspondence between BH Roberts and those above him in the Church hierarchy. This was the most 'enjoyable' section to read. It then moves onto the actual "study" where BH Roberts draws comparisons between 'The Book of Mormon' and Ethan Smith's 'View of the Hebrews'. This section is extremely comprehensive. Finally the final section is a brief summary of that same study with a side by side comparison of some of his main arguments.
I have to say up front that I found the main body of the "study" to be extremely boring and repetitive. The same argument is made over and over to the point I often thought my bookmark had fallen out and I was resuming my reading from a few pages back. As a result, of all the books I have read recently on Church History (for and against), this would have to be the hardest one for me to get through. I just found it very boring and repetitive.
Nevertheless, BH Roberts presents some good arguments in his case against the Book of Mormon, but those few pearls were buried too deep for me to rate the book a must have. My favourite is his commentary on 2 Nephi 5, where Nephi takes his righteous followers and separates from the Lamanites to start his own civilisation. There were at most about 100 in number, consisting of elderly, women & children. One of the first things they do is build a temple "after the manner of the temple of Solomon." He goes into detail how much effort (over a hundred thousand workers), time (7 years) & materials it took to build Solomon's temple, and here, this group of 100 people or less (I have read an account where this maximum was estimated to be 34), are trying to survive in unchartered countryside, go ahead and build a temple of like magnitude. It would be like watching an episode of LOST and seeing that small group of survivors living in crude shelters and while coping with just trying to survive, also gathering food for their families, mining for precious metals, refining them, fighting off any enemy attacks, all of this, at the same time building a magnificent stone cathedral, using "wood, iron, copper, brass, steel, gold, silver, and other precious metals". I've read the Book of Mormon many times, and have never picked up on this point.
Overall, this is an important book and it sits on my bookshelf along with many others dealing with Church history. This book indeed raises some thought provoking arguments, and I'm still a believer. But unfortunately, its style and repetitiveness precludes me from highly recommending it.